This lamb korma epitomises all that is special about Mughal cuisine. Aromatic spices, creamy, dried fruit, nuts, and the main ingredient highlighted to perfection.
This recipe requires an overnight marination period, so start it the day before.
The recipe is from the kitchens of the Bahadur Shah, literally the “great man shah”, dating back to the early 18th Century, CE. Hence its name Korma Bahadur Shahi, or Shahi Korma.
As befits a dish from the kitchens of a king, it has no ingredients used by the common people, such as turmeric or tomato. It uses a lot of saffron and cardamom, which were then and still are amongst the most expensive spices in the world.
Also consistent with its royal kitchen heritage is its intricate presentation. Yes, you could leave things out or use substitutes, but I would recommend that if you want to cook something that is fit for a king, then go to the bother of doing this as written. I do, but certainly not every week. This is a special occasion dish.
The key to this recipe is to use the best possible lamb you can get. The recipe will feature and showcase the lamb, so it needs to be good. It is not slow-cooked so don’t expect fatty lamb to render down. Fatty lamb will taste like, well, fatty lamb. I will often use lamb fillets or backstraps and reduce the cooking time appropriately.
You will notice a large amount of dairy product in this, which is intentional. But it is not meant to be a creamy dish. The presentation shown in the photo is what you want to achieve. Some gravy, but not pieces of lamb floating in cream.
The cashew paste is particularly important. It is partly about flavour and richness, but it also acts as a thickener. The use of nut pastes is quite common in this style of cuisine.
In royal banquets, this would be just one of many dishes. For a contemporary situation, you use this as a feature dish with simple accompaniments. Plain rice or bread would be best. Do not serve this with raita, because there will be too much yoghurt. A simple kachumber or salad would be best.
- wide pan with lid
- 800 g lamb leg - lean, cut into 2.5cm pieces
for the marinade
- 400 ml yoghurt
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 4 cloves garlic - crushed
- 1 red onion - finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 dried figs - chopped
- 3 tbsp crème fraiche
- 30 g almonds - slivered
- 50 g raw pistachios - chopped
- 1 tbsp coriander leaves
for the marinade
- Whisk the yogurt, Kashmiri chilli powder and garlic in a large bowl. Add the lamb pieces, mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Warm the milk, add the saffron and set aside.
- Place the raisins in a cup of hot water and set aside.
- Place the coriander, cardamom, cumin, mace, and cassia into a small pan on medium heat. Toast the spices until aromatic, then remove them from the heat and allow them to cool. Once cooled, grind them to a fine powder and set aside.
- Place these ground spices in a small bowl and add the ginger powder. Add a little water and mix to make a spice paste. Set aside.
- Blend 24 of the cashews and the lukewarm water to a smooth paste. Set aside.
- Heat the ghee in a large pan over medium-low heat and fry the remaining 12 cashews until golden brown. Remove and set aside. Retain the pan and ghee for cooking.
- Add the onion to the retained pan, on medium-low heat. Sprinkle with the salt and fry for ten minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the spice paste and cook until fragrant. Reduce heat to low, add 125ml of water and cook until the ghee begins to separate.
- Add the lamb with its marinade and the figs. Cook for 10 minutes or until the yoghurt gravy begins to thicken. Increase the heat and fry the mixture to take on some colour. If necessary, loosen it with a little more water.
- Reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for about an hour until the lamb is cooked. Stir occasionally and add as little water as possible during this time to stop the gravy from burning during the cooking. It will need water – you may end up adding around two cups of water during this time.
- Uncover the pan and raise the heat to medium. Add the cashew paste and mix well. Cook for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently, allowing the gravy to reduce and thicken and the lamb to become tender.
- Reduce heat to low, add the crème fraiche, mix, and bring back to a low simmer. Do not allow the gravy to boil or it will split.
- Add the saffron-infused milk to the sauce. Mix well.
- Drain the raisins and add them with the almonds and pistachios to the gravy.
- Place into a serving bowl. Garnish with coriander and the reserved cashews. Serve.
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